“If you ask any aspiring athlete i don’t think there’ll be many answers. When you pick up the boots what you dream is to represent your country at an Olympic games. I’m no exception to that. Having said that i like to set targets within my sights for the time being. The World junior championships and the Asian junior championships are coming up and bringing an Asian medal is the short term goal I’m motivating myself to.”
Harry Henry Henderson and Ranjani Henderson. Do those names ring a bell?
Being the daughter of an illustrious athletics duo may add a chip on the shoulders which the attention never evades but the advantages can far exceed those intricacies of suspicious observations. Perks in Guidance, how to look after physically and the intestinal fortitude may be some parts of a diverse make-up but Nadeeshani’s words about the goals tells that she has latched on to the ‘positives’ in mapping her career.
“It’s a valuable asset not all the athletes can brag about. Being Athletes, i have wealth of experience at home to plan my career ahead. They encourage me a lot and one of them makes sure they attend my practices daily so life’s a lot easier when you have parents who have travelled this road before.” She has no intentions of blotting out from the quiet pride that brings with the priviledge.
She came into the microscopes of athletics lovers when she broke the decade long under 18, 400 metres record of Tania Van Here and she reveals her road to that has been as lengthy as Van Here’s record was.
“Sports is in my blood. I first went to Dunugaha Ranasinghe Maha Vidyalaya and there i got selected to the Western Province meet and won all my events. Then i left for Ave Maria convent in Negombo and repeated the feats comfortably at John Tarbert meets. Thereafter i met Sunil sir and he’s the one who worked out a scholarship in Gateway College.”
Then reputed coach Sunil Gunawardena took Nadeeshani under his wings and she only reserves praise for him. “It’s because of sir that i’m here. When i met him my timing was not anywhere close what it is now. Sunil sir is who guided me to realize my potential. And i can’t forget Bhadra miss, Derwin sir Nayanthi Kumari miss and Gateway too”
A girl being linked or seen with dancing shoes on isn’t an eye-brow raising sight but it certainly has the scoop to if it’s in a running track. “It’s true. I didn’t possess the right techniques back then. It was more for the love of the game than to do everything the right way when i started. Sunil sir is the one who cut those mistakes gradually without me knowing about it. Those techniques, power and strength methods were all introduced to me by him.” She smiles for the dancing reference which was seen as a massive flow in her game before explaining that those belong to an old fangled era.
She literally was a lone ranger in her events at the recently finished ISAC 2012 meet where she broke three records. “I’m the games captain of Gateway. I wasn’t aiming for records it came to me. There was not much competition in all my pet events but as the captain i thought i should do something to bring glory to my school. And the records came along the way.”
What she has to say about the critics qualms that she had Athletics in the back burner due to the studies? “I had my A/Ls so i had to curtail the training schedule slightly in order to prepare for the exam. I postponed the next segment of the exam to January because i have the Asian junior championships coming up in June. So it’s not like i have given my priority to studies alone.” Just like that she clears the air around the rumor mill.
Her thoughts about the 400 metre dash being one of the most competitive races around. “Yes it is very competitive. Chandrika akka is the best 400m female runner in the country and her timing is around the 52 second mark. But there after there’s a crystal clear gap between she and next group which includes me. Few have come up in the last year all hovering around 55 second mark and it’s a challenge to everyone to work up our speeds and get into those early 50s. It’s a challenge that i think everyone relishes and that one would like to get there first.The trial is coming up and currently i have the best timing in 400m. So i’m very confident on the face of it.”
Most athletes have a role model where they take inspiration from. So who does Nadeeshani models her life around? To which she has an interesting answer.“There are so many but Wilma Rudolph is special because at the age of four she had polio and it was a very big problem for her development and her doctor said that she can’t walk but however Wilma’s doctor was right. She wasn’t born to walk. She was born to run. At the end she qualified for 1956 olympics and in 1960 won three gold medals. So i like her and when i’m thinking about it inspires me and gives me wings”
If she has half of the determination and will to thwart obstacles of Wilma, it goes without saying that Sri Lanka has a gem in the making to pin their hopes on.
Name- Nadeeshani Henry Henderson
Age- 18 years
School- Dunagaha Ranasinghe Maha Vidyalala, Ave Maria Convent, Gateway College
Primary Events- 100m, 200m, 400m
100m- 12.37 seconds
200m- 25.30 seconds
400m- 55.60 seconds
Head Coach-Sunil Gunawardena
Coach- Bhadra Gunawardena
2008 Western Province 100m (G), 200m (G), 400m (G) under 17 best female athlete
2009 Youth Asian Games trials-1st place 2010 Junior Nationals 400m (G) with a new record
National Sports Festival 400m (B)
2011 All Island best female Athlete 400m (G) with a new meet record
Participated in the Asian Youth Games 2009 in Singapore
Participated in the Asian Junior Athletics Championships 2010 in Vietnam
ISAC 2012- 100m (G), 200m (G), 400m (G) all with new meet records